10 Unforgettable Love Poems for Every Mood
Fumbling for words of love? Let the great poets speak your heart on all occasions.
She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes
—Lord Byron, 1788-1824, England
“Mad, bad, and dangerous to know,” the poet Lord Byron was the heartthrob of 19th-century London, setting the fashion for every tousled, troubled troubadour who has followed to the present day. Despite Byron’s terrible reputation and deformed clubfoot, no one could resist the lyrical, romantic overtures in his love poems (supposedly not even his own half-sister!) and this tender verse gives us a hint as to why.
I am not jealous
of what came before me.
Come with a man
on your shoulders,
come with a hundred men in your hair,
come with a thousand men between your breasts and your feet….
Bring them all
to where I am waiting for you;
we shall always be alone,
we shall always be you and I
alone on earth,
to start our life!
—Pablo Neruda, 1904–1973, Chile
He may have served his native country as a diplomat and politician as well as winning the Nobel Prize for literature, but Neruda was best known as “a frank, sensuous spokesman for love.” Perhaps the most passionate of all modern poets, no one makes a woman with a past sound sexier than Neruda in these bold, ringing lines. Here are more romantic poetry lines to make you swoon.
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace
—Elizabeth Barrett Browning, England, 1806-1861
By the time the poetess met her much younger husband, Robert Browning, she was already a literary celebrity on both sides of the Atlantic, but her poor health and overprotective family kept her almost a prisoner in her room. Although Barrett Browning was already 40, she was forced to elope with her husband and fled to Italy, where her newlywed bliss apparently continued.
or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully, suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending….
(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens; only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands
—e. e. cummings, 1894–1962, United States
As the first poet to popularize all lower case letters and random punctuation, e.e. cummings was considered a rule breaker. But here, he declares in subtle, heartfelt metaphors how deeply he respects her boundaries and how willing he is to retreat at the least sign of rejection. Now that’s a timely poem.
“…once I look at you for a moment, I can’t speak any longer, but my tongue breaks down, and then all at once a subtle fire races inside my skin, my eyes can’t see a thing and a whirring whistle thrums at my hearing, cold sweat covers me and a trembling takes ahold of me all over: I’m greener than the grass is and appear to myself to be little short of dying.”
—Sappho, 7th century BC, Greece
Yes, she’s that Sappho, the classical Greek poetess from the island of Lesbos, the reason we call gay women lesbians. Remarkably, we only have a few fiery fragments of Sappho’s writing left, but those love poems are still inspiring lovers of all kinds after almost 3,000 years. These are the romantic books you’ll want to read as a couple.
Music I heard with you was more than music,
And bread I broke with you was more than bread;
Now that I am without you, all is desolate;
All that was once so beautiful is dead….
For it was in my heart you moved among them,
And blessed them with your hands and with your eyes;
And in my heart they will remember always, —
They knew you once, O beautiful and wise.
—Conrad Aiken, 1889-1973, United States
As you might guess, Aiken was a man on intimate terms with tragedy. When Conrad Aiken was a child, his father killed his mother and committed suicide himself. Aiken grew up to be a sensitive soul; according to the Academy of American Poets, “he avoided military service during World War I by claiming that, as a poet, he was part of an ‘essential industry.’” Aiken married three times, but as we can see from the lines of his love poems above, he never fully recovered from his childhood trauma.
Last night, your memory stole into my heart—
as spring sweeps uninvited into barren gardens,
as morning breezes reinvigorate dormant deserts,
as a patient suddenly feels better, for no apparent reason …
—Faiz Ahmed Faiz, 1911-1984, Pakistan
Pakistan’s most beloved modern poet was as well-known for writing about political protest as romance. But here Faiz carries on the tradition of classical South Asian love poetry, showing his lyrical, wistful side as he revels in the recollection of love. For some more words of wisdom, read these inspirational poems that will warm your heart.
Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.
—Matthew Arnold, England, 1822-1888
Believe it or not, these darkly beautiful lines are actually part of a honeymoon poem, composed on England’s Dover Beach shortly after the poet’s wedding in 1851. Maybe his new wife, Frances Lucy Wrightsman, was charmed by Arnold’s bleak passion in his love poems, because their marriage lasted 37 more years and produced six children. You won’t want to miss the most romantic quotes from books.
Oh, western wind, when wilt thou blow
the small rain down can rain
Christ, if my love were in my arms
and I in my bed again
—Anonymous, 16th century, England
This evocative fragment was first recorded as a song. Whether the speaker is a soldier or a shepherd, he longs for the rainy season, which will give him an excuse to come home to his beloved. We don’t know if the narrator is cursing or pleading to see her, but the third line gives this 500-year-old poem a surprisingly modern tone.
When you come to me, unbidden,
To long-ago rooms,
Where memories lie.
Offering me, as to a child, an attic,
Gatherings of days too few.
Baubles of stolen kisses.
Trinkets of borrowed loves.
Trunks of secret words,
—Maya Angelou, 1928–2014, United States
Here the great African-American memoirist and civil rights poet explores the painful tenderness of human vulnerability. In these lines, we see that romantic love is the key that opens Angelou’s storehouses of secrets and pain. Read on for our all-time favorite quotes about falling in love.